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Springboard: How ‘Beasts of No Nation’ Star Abraham Attah Got His Big Break By Just Being a Regular Kid

Springboard: How 'Beasts of No Nation' Star Abraham Attah Got His Big Break By Just Being a Regular Kid

READ MORE: With Its Adventurous Netflix Deal, Can ‘Beasts of No Nation’ Work on the Small Screen?

Indiewire’s Springboard column profiles up-and-comers in the film industry worthy of your attention.

It’s a Hollywood discovery story for the ages. Eager to cast a local non-actor in his latest feature, “Beasts of No Nation,” director Cary Fukunaga and his team looked far and wide for a fresh face that could believably capture the gamut of emotions experienced by a young child forced from the comfort of his home into the ranks of a ruthless warlord bent on violence and bloodshed. After a protracted search, they found Ghanaian local Abraham Attah playing soccer. Not only had Attah never acted before, but he was also originally under the impression that he was being recruited for his soccer-playing skills.

Yet Attah, who was just 14 when Fukunaga filmed the Netflix original feature, took to the work with ease. As young Agu, Attah plays a regular boy thrust into horrifying circumstance after his family is ripped apart, his village is destroyed and he’s forced to join up with the very men responsible for it, including Idris Elba as the menacing Commandant. Based on the 2005 novel of the same title by Uzodinma Iweala, Fukunaga’s film takes us inside the world of child soldiers, with Attah’s Agu as our very compelling guide.

Attah has already earned significant acclaim for his work, including the Marcello Mastroianni Award at the 72nd Film Festival, an award designed to recognize emerging actors and actresses worth watching. 

“Beasts of No Nation” is available on Netflix and in select theaters today. Read more about the project and Attah’s experience making it directly from the budding new actor below.

On getting cast: It was on a Friday, and I was in school with my friends, playing football on our school field, and a man came to us and said he needed boys for a movie. So we went for an audition, he told us to go to one of the television stations in Ghana, and we went for an audition. I was chosen for Agu.

On the craziest scene to film: There was one shot I was wearing slippers, walking in the very deep jungle, I was afraid to meet a dangerous animal. 

On his favorite scene to film: I was dressed like a solider, so I was telling them [the other boys] that I was like the Commandant, telling them to come out from the jungle.

On working with Cary: It was nice for me to work with Cary, because he doesn’t use pressure. If he tells you to do something, you don’t have to do it [right away], he’ll give you some time to process it and get it right.

On working with Idris: At first it was hard for me, but he played football with us on set, so it became normal for me to work with him.

On if he ever thought about an acting career before the film: Yeah! I like movies, but not as much as music. 

What’s his favorite movie: “The Hobbit,” all of them. 

On winning the Marcello Mastroianni Award: I was so happy. We were in New York, preparing to go to Toronto when they called us. They wanted us to come back to Venice right away.

On what kind of movies he’d like to make next: Action movies!

READ MORE: Cary Fukanaga Wants ‘Beasts of No Nation’ to Be More Than Just an ‘Issue Movie’

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